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1(J4                                                                                                                     B. POLEVOI
passionately, always at the scene of the "crime"—he
invariably insisted that the clinic must continue to func-
tion as a model institution ^ even in alert, blacked-out,
war-time Moscow, that this was their retort to those
Hitlers and Goerings; he refused to listen to any excuses
on the grounds of war-time difficulties and said that
slackers and idlers could get to heH out of here, and that
precisely now, when things were difficult, there must be
especially strict order in the place. He himself continued
to make his rounds with such punctuality that the ward
maids, as before, set the ward clocks by his appearance.
Even air raids did not disturb the punctuality of this
man. It was this that stimulated the staff to perform
miracles and maintain pre-war order in the clinic under
incredible difficulties.
During one of his morning rounds the chief, we will
call him Vasily Vasilyevich, came upon two beds stand-
ing side by side on the staircase landing on the second
"What's this exhibition?" he barked and shot such a
fierce glance from under his shaggy eyebrows at the house
surgeon that the latter, a tall, round-shouldered person,
no longer young, of impressive appearance, stood to at-
tention like a schoolboy and said:
"Arrived only last night___Airmen. This one has a
fractured thigh and right arm. Condition normal. But
that one"—he pointed to a gaunt figure of indefinite age
lying motionless with eyes closed—"is a severe case.
Compound fracture of the insteps, gangrene in both
feet, but chiefly, extreme exhaustion. I don't believe it, of
course, but the medical officer, who accompanied them
here, reports that the patient with fractured feet had
crawled for eighteen days behind the German lines. This,
of course, is an exaggeration...."
Not listening to the house surgeon, Vasily Vasilyevich
lifted the blanket. Alexei Meresyev was lying with his
arms crossed on his chest. From these dark-skinned arms,
which stood out distinctly against the background of the
fresh white shirt and sheets, one could study the bone
structure of man. The professor gently replaced the
blanket and, interrupting the house surgeon, growled;
"Why are they lying here?"